Who is Jack Aitken?

With Pietro Fittipaldi filling in for Romain Grosjean in the Sakhir Grand Prix, nobody was expecting another change to the grid. However it was Lewis Hamilton’s positive COVID-19 result which meant his Mercedes seat was taken by Williams driver George Russell, whose own seat went to Jack Aitken.

So for those of you who were not aware of Aitken before last weekend, here is all you need to know about the latest British driver to reach F1.

First thing you should know, he’s actually British-Korean. Born to a Scottish father and Korean mother, he began karting in 2006 at Buckmore Park where he won the Summer Challenge club series aged 14 before moving into national and international karting championships.

Aitken made his first move into car racing in 2012. In the BARC Formula Renault winter series he took one win and just missed out on the championship by one point to future British GT champion Seb Morris. His main campaign was the InterSteps Championship, where he would finish third overall having taken 13 podiums across 23 races, two of those being wins.

In 2013 Aitken moved to the Northern European Formula Renault championship and was second to Matt Parry, the previous year’s InterSteps champion. That was followed by a move to the Formula Renault EuroCup for the following year in which he finished seventh in the championship, but it was all building up to what would be Aitken’s best year.

For 2015 Aitken would double up his Formula Renault campaign with assaults on the EuroCup and Alps championships, but to prepare for the season he went over to the States to compete in the Pro Mazda Winterfest. He battled for the championship with Malaysian driver Weiron Tan and pipped him to the title by a single point, which boded well for his dual Formula Renault campaign.

So it did! Moving to the Koiranen GP team that took Nyck de Vries to both the EuroCup and Alps championships the year before, Aitken racked up five wins in the EuroCup and four wins in the Alps series. He capped off his successful season by becoming a member of Renault’s F1 driver academy, and by sealing a drive in the F1-supporting GP3 Series with Arden.

While the 2016 GP3 championship was between now-F1 drivers Charles Leclerc and Alexander Albon in the leading ART team, Aitken did very well with a win and fifth in the standings. 2017 looked to be an even better year for Aitken as he took one of the ART seats. However, a new kid arrived who plays a big part in Aitken’s story.

That new kid was George Russell, who moved up from European F3 to take one of the other ART seats. The season was hard fought and ART occupied the first four places in the driver’s championship with Russell, Aitken and their teammates Nirei Fukuzumi and Anthoine Hubert.

However, Russell annihilated Aitken, taking four wins to Aitken’s one and finishing nearly 80 points clear. They both moved up to F2 the following season remaining with ART, but Russell dominated the championship there as well, over the likes of Lando Norris and Albon. Aitken did win the sprint race at Barcelona, but finishing only 11th in the championship coupled with Russell’s success did not do his reputation any good unfortunately.

For 2019, Aitken made the move to the unfancied Campos team. He began to repair some of the damage that had been done, taking the feature race win at Baku, a glorious victory on the Sunday morning of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and a further sprint win at Monza to finish the season fifth.

Jack Aitken, Campos. Image courtesy of FIA Formula 2.

He remained with Campos for 2020 but left the Renault academy, joining Williams as a reserve driver. He was thought to be one of the favourites for the F2 title this year, but the results have not been there for Jack.

However with Russell’s immediate call-up to Mercedes in Sakhir, Aitken’s F1 dream came true. It may have been short-lived, but he immediately made an impression by qualifying less than a tenth from Williams’ other full season driver Nicholas Latifi and outqualifying an F1 world champion in Kimi Räikkönen.

It may be unusual circumstances but Aitken can be pretty pleased with how he did. While it was Russell who starred in his Mercedes debut and nearly came away with a victory, Aitken has certainly done himself a lot of favours with how he performed over the Sakhir Grand Prix weekend.

Sergio Pérez takes maiden victory in astonishing Sakhir GP

What a race! In the jumbled up 2020 calendar that began in July at the Red Bull Ring, the last three races are a triple feast in the Middle East. Beginning with the traditional Bahrain circuit last weekend and ending the season at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi but that middle race would be another one at Bahrain. However it would be on the outer circuit which the F1 cars had been lapping at under a minute all through the weekend.

The lead up to the weekend was already packed with action, as Romain Grosjean’s horror crash from which he thankfully escaped with just a few burns meant that Haas drafted in reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi. Then the huge bombshell dropped that world champion Lewis Hamilton had tested positive for COVID-19 which meant Mercedes had to go looking for a replacement driver. That turned out to be George Russell who left a vacant seat at Williams, and that ended up being F2 racer Jack Aitken.

F2 driver Jack Aitken stepped in for Mercedes-bound George Russell this weekend – Courtesy of Williams Media

In qualifying, it was Bottas who just pipped Russell to pole by a microscopic margin. Max Verstappen qualified third and Charles Leclerc put in a mighty lap to drag that lacklustre Ferrari to fourth on the grid, and following him were Pérez, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Sainz, Gasly, Stroll, Ocon, Albon, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Latifi, Aitken, Räikkönen, and at the back were Norris and Fittipaldi who had taken grid penalties.

At the start, Russell immediately got away better than Bottas who had to hold off Verstappen’s advances, and struggled to get out the first few corners. His compatriot Räikkönen spun in the back of shot and thankfully no awful imagery to worry about like last week at the same corner. But Bottas’ eyes were on Verstappen, closing the door on him which left an open opportunity for Pérez to go past the Red Bull.

After an intense qualifying, Russell pipped Bottas into the first corner – Courtesy of Mercedes media

But it was Leclerc who got caught out trying to brake for the corner, smacked into the Racing Point and spun him round, leaving Verstappen with nowhere to go but into the wall and retirement along with Leclerc. Somehow, Pérez was able to continue and pitted, benefitting from the subsequent safety car and was able to rejoin the back of the pack in 18th.

At the front, Russell’s massive lead that he got at the start was eliminated, but he wasn’t done. The safety car period ended on lap six and Russell eased off whilst Bottas was under pressure from McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who rose to third amid the first lap chaos. He went around the outside of Bottas into turn one, but going through the turn two and three complex, Sainz ran wide and that allowed the Merc right back through.

Whilst Russell was experiencing what it’s like to be in the lead in an F1 car, further down the order were two of his mates, Lando Norris and Alex Albon. Lap 20 and Albon made a move stick on Norris, who was then immediately overtaken by Pérez despite the Mexican being spun on the first lap. The following lap, Albon was then passed by Pérez at the same corner.

Back at the front with Russell, he already had a gap of over a second before the DRS was enabled. The Mercs began gapping Sainz, and it was a steady lead Russell held over Bottas which fluctuated as they negotiated lapped traffic. He extended that lead after he pitted, undercutting Bottas after he was left out for a further four laps, and the gap went to the highest it had been all race even in spite of a sensor scare.

Russell’s typical Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi pulled off and caused a Virtual Safety Car, and not much changed other than Bottas swiped into Russell’s lead. But Pérez was continuing his charge through the field, putting a move on teammate Lance Stroll going into turn four and then the following lap, on former Force India teammate Esteban Ocon. The Mexican was absolutely flying out there. He was now on course for a podium finish with his strategy completely played out.

However, Russell’s replacement at Williams Jack Aitken lost the car coming out of the last corner and clattered the tyre barrier, leaving his front wing on the track and he dove for the pits. A Virtual Safety Car was initially called, but that became a full Safety Car, and Mercedes felt the need to cover off Pérez. But man, did they mess up.

The two Mercs double stacked, Russell came in and they put on the tyres, all well and good. Then Bottas came in and there seemed to be some hesitation, and they sent him back out on the same tyres he pitted with, which was a bit odd as to why they did that. Then it became very apparent. Russell had been sent out on tyres which were intended for Bottas, so now he was bunched up behind the safety car with Pérez, Ocon and Stroll behind him and he was called back to the pits to change the tyres.

This was a huge mess-up on Mercedes’ part. Russell came back out in fifth behind Bottas who remained on his old set, but looked to have the best tyres out of everyone in the top five. Racing resumed and Russell was a man on a mission, making quick work of his teammate on the old set of tyres pulling off an immense outside move going through the long turn six, then passing Stroll and Ocon with the help of DRS. He then set to work catching Pérez who was a long way up the road.

Russell was eating into Pérez’s advantage lap after lap but yet again, disaster. Russell was called back to the pits AGAIN as he had a slow puncture and they put him on softs, whilst the other Mercedes of Bottas just went backwards as he was overtaken by Sainz, Ricciardo and Albon in very quick succession.

But up at the front, a man who for some reason doesn’t have a drive in 2021 guaranteed. Sergio Pérez took an incredible first win for both himself, and the team that he’s leaving after next week’s season finale. Esteban Ocon took second ahead of Lance Stroll, then it was Sainz, Ricciardo, Kvyat had also passed Bottas in the closing stages, Russell recovered to ninth ahead of Norris who scored the last point.

Russell finally got his long awaited first points finish as well as another for fastest lap, although it was little consolation for what was throughout the entire race looking set to be an incredible first win for the guy. He did absolutely incredibly all weekend, and it definitely will not be the last we hear from Russell, who may get a second stab at the cherry this weekend in Abu Dhabi providing Hamilton isn’t well enough to participate.

Esteban Ocon earned a thoroughly-well deserved podium – Courtesy of Renault Media

But it was Pérez who after 190 starts, finally took victory and became the first Mexican to win an F1 Grand Prix in 50 years. A win that was perhaps long overdue, especially if we harken back to Malaysia 2012 when he came very close in his Sauber to denying Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso a win that day. But better late than never, and hopefully Pérez is not out of F1 for long.

Celebrating disabled drivers

In any sport it’s an incredible feat to be able to compete whilst having a physical disability. Motorsport is one of those sports where the differences between a driver without a physical impairment and drivers who do, can be highlighted in some areas but can be completely unnoticeable if you weren’t aware of a driver’s disability beforehand.

To mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we decided to talk about a few drivers who are breaking down barriers in racing for those with disabilities.

Alex Zanardi

Having competed in F1 for many years, Alex was competing in the CART World Series at the Lausitzring in 2001. Exiting the pits 12 laps from the end of the race, he lost grip on cold tyres and slid into oncoming traffic, where he was hit by another car at over 200mph. He survived despite losing nearly 75% of his blood volume, but lost both his legs in the crash.

With the use of hand controls Alex went on to race again in the World Touring Car Championship, Blancpain Sprint Series, Spa 24 Hours, Daytona 24 Hours, and also made a one-off appearance in DTM in 2018 at Misano. However he made a real name for himself by competing in the Paralympics.

Alex won a handcycling gold and a relay silver in the London 2012 Paralympics (both events taking place at Brands Hatch) and another gold and silver in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, as well as plenty of other accolades in the Para-cycling World Championships.

Unfortunately Alex was involved in a para-cycling road race accident in June of this year, when he lost control of his handbike on a hill and hit an oncoming truck. He suffered severe facial and cranial trauma, and was placed into a medically induced coma.

We all know from the ordeals he’s had to go through that if anyone can overcome this, it’ll be Alex Zanardi. A true hero to disabled people all around the world.

Billy Monger

After great success in karting, Billy Monger was competing at Donington in British F4 in 2017. In race three he collided with a slow moving car and his legs were buried in the wreckage. He was extracted and airlifted to hospital, but unfortunately had to have his legs amputated.

But this didn’t break Billy Whizz’s spirit. With the help of hand controls, Billy returned to single seaters in the 2018 British F3 championship, scoring four podiums and two pole positions to end the season sixth in the standings.

Billy moved up to EuroFormula the following year, where he achieved the seemingly impossible in a wet Pau Grand Prix. Making a clever call to pit for wets on the formation lap, Billy rose through the field to third then held his nerve in the tricky conditions to win after the two leaders collided.

You’ll see Billy as part of Channel 4’s F1 coverage, and he’s expressed interest in joining the new Extreme E off-road electric series for next year. I certainly hope this happens as Monger is one of the most inspiring individuals you could ever know and he deserves to race.

Nathalie McGloin

McGloin is a British racing driver who is also a tetraplegic. She injured her spine in a road traffic accident as a teenager and has been competing in the Porsche Sprint Challenge against able bodied men. She’s the only disabled woman in the whole of the UK to hold a race and rally licence in the UK, and competes with radial hand controls that she pushes forward to brake and backward to accelerate, meaning she steers with one hand at all times!

Not only has she managed many podium finishes in the Porsche championship (including an outright victory at Silverstone in 2018), she’s also the President of the FIA Disability and Accessibility Commission. Definitely deserving of a place on this list.

Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica, Alfa Romeo (Florent Gooden, DPPI / Alfa Romeo Media)

Perhaps the most well known name on this list. He enjoyed huge success as the first Polish driver in F1, including his famous win with BMW Sauber in 2008. However all that changed in the lead up to the 2011 season.

After testing his new Renault F1 car, Robert entered an amateur rally event and collided with a guardrail, resulting in elbow, shoulder and leg fractures and partially severing his right forearm. He thankfully survived, but the injuries put him out of F1 for the foreseeable future.

Robert stuck to the rallying scene on his road to recovery and won the WRC-2 championship in 2013. But in 2017 he returned to F1 machinery with a Renault test, which ultimately led to a fairytale opportunity to return as a full time driver with Williams for 2019.

He scored their only point of the year at Hockenheim but wasn’t kept on for 2020. Nevertheless seeing Kubica back in F1 did feel right, and he has since took up a position as Alfa Romeo’s development driver while also competing in DTM this year, where he took a podium at Zolder.

Nic Hamilton

The first thing you’d think of is that he’s the brother of a certain seven-time F1 world champion. But the younger Hamilton has been making a name for himself for years.

Nic has had cerebal palsy since birth, resulting in physical impairments his whole life. But having initially gotten a taste for competition on video games (long before Esports was in the mainstream), he started competing in the BTCC-supporting Renault Clio Cup and then in European Touring Cars.

2019 however was when he finally got to where I feel he belonged, British Touring Cars. Seeing someone with cerebal palsy in the headline races on a terrestrial TV channel is incredibly uplifting to witness.

Frédéric Sausset

When on holiday in 2012, businessman and motorsport enthusiast Frédéric contracted a life-threatening infection from a scratch on his finger, which resulted in him becoming a quadruple amputee. However he didn’t let this prevent him from fulfilling his lifelong ambition of racing the 24 hours of Le Mans.

OAK Racing converted one of their LMP2 cars so Frédéric could drive it in the 2016 race. He used a special steering wheel which connected to a prosthetic on his right arm, and he had two thigh operated paddles built into his seat insert for the accelerator and brake.

The result was that Sausset and his teammates entered into the grueling round-the-clock race and finished it. A remarkable achievement and one that cannot even be imaginable for someone in his position, but he did it.

Caleb McDuff

Caleb McDuff (Photo courtesy of Ian McDuff)

Last but not least, Caleb McDuff is a 12-year old kart racer who is profoundly deaf. When he competes in karting, he can’t utilise his implants and so he races in total silence. Which, when you consider how reliant a lot of drivers are on the sound of their vehicle to race, is just incredible to think about.

Not only is Caleb able to compete in karting but he’s actually pretty good. Last year, he won the Super One National Karting Championship’s Honda Cadet category so he’s clearly capable of overcoming his impairments. I would very much hope he’s able to make the step up to cars in the future, whether that be single seaters or tin-tops.

Every single one of these people are so incredibly inspiring and serve as reminders that the human spirit is impenetrable. Whatever the cards you are dealt with in life, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to and we are bound by absolutely nothing. So happy International Day of Persons with Disabilities to you all!

Who is Pietro Fittipaldi?

In the wake of Romain Grosjean’s awful crash at the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Haas F1 team have announced that to allow him some time to recover, the second Haas seat alongside Kevin Magnussen will be filled in for at least the Sakhir Grand Prix by Pietro Fittipaldi. In light of this announcement, it would be a good time to talk you through the career of another chapter in the Fittipaldi F1 dynasty.

Injuries sustained in last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix mean that Grosjean cannot take part in this weekend’s Sakhir Grand prix – Courtesy of Haas Media

So as you have already guessed, yes Pietro is related to 1972 and 1974 F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi. He began karting when he was eight years old in Florida having been born there, and went on to win three important championships between 2006 and 2010. He also racked up 37 wins, 63 podiums and 21 pole positions in that time.

He made the step up to car racing in the short-track NASCAR series, and his first taste of championship success came in 2011 when he won the individual track championship of the Hickory Motor Speedway, when he was aged only 15. At the end of 2012, he decided to make the trip across the Atlantic to Europe and have a crack at single-seaters.

He made his single-seater debut in the BARC Formula Renault championship, finishing 8th in the championship for 2013 and then for the following year he completely wiped the floor with the rest of the field, winning the championship by a huge margin. He also made a one-off appearance in the Formula Renault EuroCup series as well as a partial campaign in the Formula Renault Alps championship. Despite only doing four of the seven events, he still managed to finish a respectable ninth in the final standings.

For 2015, he stepped up to Euro F3 but endured a lowly year, scoring only 32 points and finishing 16th at the end of the season. His team Fortec Motorsports were not the force they once were in F3. Undeterred though, he stuck with Fortec and moved up to the Formula V8 3.5 Series for 2016.

The championship Pietro was entering was the phoenix rising out of the ashes of what was Formula Renault 3.5, just Renault had withdrawn their support for the series that was a strong alternative to GP2 (now Formula 2). It was a shell of its former self but still contained some notable talent, but it still didn’t help Pietro and he ended the season tenth. The following year however, he stuck to the series and moved to the Lotus-branded Charouz team for 2017.

The series made the step up in terms of new locations. Having only been racing in Europe the previous season, Formula V8 3.5 raced on the undercard to the FIA World Endurance Championship at the likes of the Mexican, US and Bahrain Grand Prix circuits. Grid numbers were dwindling however and the series was dying a slow death, but that didn’t take away what Pietro achieved that season.

Fittipaldi has impressed in the junior Formulae prior to his call-up this weekend in Sakhir – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Battling to the last round, he went up against SMP Racing-backed Matevos Isaakyan and won the championship. So now Pietro would look to the following season as to what to compete in and logically the next step would be F2, however he opted for a heavy program in 2018. At least, he intended to.

Fittipaldi opted to compete in three different championships in 2018: Japanese Super Formula with Team LeMans, IndyCar with Dale Coyne Racing and the FIA World Endurance Championship with DragonSpeed. Some programs would have taken priority over others; the reason I say that is because it didn’t entirely pan out like that.

After doing a single event in IndyCar and Super Formula, Pietro was qualifying for the WEC 6 hours of Spa when his power steering seized going up Eau Rouge. He went straight into the tyre wall which resulted in a compound fracture of his lower left leg and broken right ankle. He required surgery and was out of action for a couple of months, but thankfully he was able to get back to competing in IndyCar for the last five races of the season.

For 2019, it was announced that Fittipaldi would become one of the test and reserve drivers for Haas F1 with the intention of getting some time in the car in Free Practice 1 sessions. Alongside that though, Fittipaldi was also confirmed to be competing in the DTM championship as one the Audi drivers, which didn’t yield much success but he still scored a respectable 22 points, and even a couple of fastest laps.

He didn’t remain in DTM for this year – I’m not entirely sure if he had a racing program for this year before the pandemic hit – but in any case he’s remained Haas’ reserve driver. Now, in the wake of Grosjean’s horror crash, Pietro Fittipaldi will make his F1 debut this weekend in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. It is unlikely we will see Pietro in F1 full time unfortunately unless he does what Kamui Kobayashi did and stun everyone enough in these last two races to earn a race drive. Though with pretty much all the seats taken, even that won’t mean he’ll earn one.

Fittipaldi, Haas’ test and reserve driver, will now make his Formula One Grand Prix debut

However it doesn’t mean he will be the last Fittipaldi in F1. Be on the look out for Pietro’s brother Enzo who is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy. He was Italian F4 champion in 2018, runner up in Formula Regional Europe last year and competed this year in FIA F3. Also Emerson Fittipaldi, Jr., who is part of the Sauber Junior Team and is competing in European karting. And yes.. he’s actually the uncle of Pietro and Enzo, despite being born in 2007.

Back to Pietro, don’t expect any miracles from him having never been in an F1 car in a race situation or tested extensively. However, any and all potential outcomes for Pietro can only be a win for him. Best of luck to him and of course, all our well wishes to Romain Grosjean and his family as he makes his recovery.

The day Lewis Hamilton made his mark

Last weekend played host to the highly anticipated return of the Turkish Grand Prix. It was the first time since 2011 that F1 had raced at the fan favourite Istanbul Park circuit, and it definitely delivered on the promise.

An emotional Lewis Hamilton stands on the podium after winning his seventh world championship in Turkey – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Whilst the race itself was very exciting, typically the result would make plenty of people say it was boring as Lewis Hamilton, in undoubtedly one of the best drives of his career, nursed intermediates in rapidly drying conditions for 52 laps on his way to his 94th victory. In the process, he equaled Michael Schumacher by wrapping up his seventh championship.

Only Michael Schumacher had won seven world titles before Hamilton achieved it last weekend – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

By half way through, Hamilton seemed to have absolutely no chance of winning the race yet somehow he passed Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez with about 20 laps to go and pulled out a lead of over 30 seconds. He claimed his seventh championship and levelled with the great Michael Schumacher at the Istanbul Park circuit is very fitting, considering the day the F1 world sat up and paid attention to the kid from Stevenage.

27th August 2006. A 21 year old Lewis is competing in the GP2 Series (what we know now as Formula 2) on the undercard to the Turkish Grand Prix, and he is locked in an intense championship battle with Nelson Piquet, Jr. Hamilton had just come off the back of a defeat to Piquet; the Brazilian had in the previous round at Budapest scored maximum points and had just done the same the day before, taking fastest lap by half a second. Hamilton was at real risk of losing the championship lead with only two races to go at Monza.

Hamilton had already made a real impression in his racing career up until that point. He had an endless amount of achievements in karting, and had won the championship in Formula Renault UK. He completely and utterly dominated in the F3 Euro Series in 2005, winning 15 out of 20 races – however things could have been much different.

Seeing the GP2 Series start up for 2005 from the remnants of European Formula 3000, Hamilton asked the higher ups at McLaren if he could make the step up to the category for that year. But the Woking-based team held their ground believing it best to continue with their mindset of having Lewis spend his first year in a junior championship, learning the ropes to then go for a title charge the following year. After much deliberation, McLaren decided to sever ties with Hamilton and the Brit had to go hunting for sponsors for the last two major events of the 2004 F3 season.

Hamilton did manage to sort sponsorship and after somehow winning the Bahrain SuperPrix F3 race after qualifying last and making his way through in both the qualifying race and main race, he reunited with McLaren and stuck to F3 for the following year. After dominating the championship, he then got his wish to go to GP2 and immediately hit the ground running.

In only his third event, Hamilton took a double victory at the Nürburgring which, when you consider the second race of the weekend’s starting order is the reverse of the previous race’s top eight finishers, is very impressive. He then took a win at Monaco and another double victory at Silverstone. He had been making a habit of pulling off some audacious manoeuvres and charges through the field.

But the momentum before the Sunday of the Turkish Grand Prix had swung in favour of Piquet. As a result, Hamilton had clearly realised that drastic measures were in order. He asked for his mechanics at his GP2 team, ART Grand Prix, (responsible in recent years for taking the likes of Charles Leclerc and George Russell to championship success in the lower formulae) to trim his car’s aerodynamics down to the bare minimum. It was the sort of setup you typically would expect at Monza.

The team thought Lewis had gone nuts in desperation to cling on to some hope of keeping his championship fight alive, knowing that he would most likely spin. They were definitely right to have that fear.

At the start of the race, Hamilton held his starting position of P7 and tried to challenge Piquet who had managed to pass him at the start, nearly coming to blows at turn seven. Lap two however was when the inevitable happened as Lewis took to the kerb at turn four and spun, dropping to P19. Most people would have accepted that it was over at that point. Everyone, it seems, but Hamilton.

Hamilton had found that limit and set to work trying to salvage whatever result he could. Immediately he passed Ernesto Viso at turn seven, interlocking his front left with Viso’s rear right in the process and then getting another free position when Fairuz Fauzy hit trouble. This was only the beginning.

It didn’t matter where. The turn nine chicane before the long flat out straight and kink; doing the up and under at the series of slow speed corners ending the lap; the blind crest at turn one; the outside of turn three which turned to the inside of turn four – you name it, Hamilton passed there. He had found that sweet spot where he could drive an undoubtedly nervous car on the edge and in around ten laps from when he spun, Hamilton was now in the top five and could see his rival Piquet up the road.

You have to realise, this was a field full of drivers who would go on to be very successful. Along with Hamilton and Piquet who would both end up in F1 in the following years, you also had other F1-bound talent like Timo Glock, Lucas di Grassi and Vitaly Petrov. Future sportscar drivers such as Nicolas Lapierre, Mike Conway and Gianmaria Bruni (who raced in F1 with Minardi in 2004), and even Lewis’ teammate Alexandre Prémat would go on to win last year’s Bathurst 1000 Supercars flagship race with Scott McLaughlin. These drivers were no slouches by any means.

With eight laps to go, Hamilton would pull off the divebomb to end all divebombs on Piquet into the hairpin near the end of the lap. Then the following lap, he tried to do the same to Timo Glock but he put up a good fight, which would not be entirely notable if it wasn’t for the fact that to this day, people are still out for Glock’s head as he supposedly couldn’t put up a good enough fight to deny Hamilton his first F1 championship in 2008.

Felipe Massa (left) was cruelly denied the championship in 2008 after Timo Glock, who raced in GP2 with Hamilton in 2006, was passed at the final corner by the Brit in Brazil – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Glock’s defending from turn 13 up until about turn four meant Piquet got back through, but Hamilton pulled off another spectacular out-braking move at turn 13 and got around the outside of Piquet, even nudging Glock going around turn 14. Still finding himself behind the German, he set himself up heading onto the penultimate lap to finally pull off an overtake and solidify his position and was set for a podium finish after being as low as P19!

But was he done there? Yeah, right! Hamilton had only two drivers ahead of him, race leader Andreas Zuber and second place Adam Carroll. He set the fastest lap of the race heading into the last lap and caught Carroll by four tenths of a second in the first sector alone. Heading into the flat out section on the last lap, he ducked into Carroll’s slipstream and sent one up the inside of a defenceless Northern-Irishman. Zuber rounded the last corner to win but just under three seconds later, Lewis Hamilton crossed the line to finish second.

The F1 press room had been exploding with media standing up in amazement, along with the entire F1 paddock. Lewis Hamilton was probably only one or two laps away from actually winning, This race was an early indicator of Lewis’s race craft, but more importantly and perhaps way underrated, his intelligence and confidence to adapt his driving to suit the setup. This would only be the tip of the iceberg as to what was to come for the Brit.

Comparisons between Hamilton and greats such as Schumacher and Ayrton Senna are now stronger than ever – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Hamilton would go on to wrap up the GP2 championship, and the rest, as we know, is history. For anyone who followed Hamilton throughout his junior career, his F1 success should come as no surprise. Fast forward to 14 years later, he’s now statistically speaking one of the greatest of all time, level on championships with the great Michael Schumacher. Yes he’s had the best car for a long time, but you don’t maintain this level of dominance for so long without being one of the best. Hamilton is well and truly up there with the likes of Senna and Schumacher, and deservedly so.

Feature Image Courtesy of F2 Media

Why you should watch the FIA Gran Turismo championships

Image from gameplay

The weekend of February 16th this year, seems like such a long time ago. Why was this date so significant though? Well that was the last time we saw the FIA Gran Turismo championships when it was took place in Sydney.

It was an incredible event, which saw two sets of races take place. There was the Manufacturer Series races in which BMW took victory, and then the Nations Cup which saw the home crowd chanting for local hero Cody Nikola Latkovski in his efforts to overhaul Takuma Miyazono, but falling short by a mere 0.03 seconds at the line.

The second event of 2020 was due to take place in May at the Nürburgring in support of the 24 hour race but as we all can probably guess, that was cancelled due the pandemic. Since then, the FIA Gran Turismo championships have sat in limbo for the majority of the year with no real evidence to suggest how it would return. Well now, it’s back!

Having qualified through both competing in their respective online regional championships and extra stage qualifications, the competing drivers will participate in their own region’s finals. The drivers from Europe, the Middle East and Africa will have their own event in which the top eight will progress onto the world final, as well as the top four from the Americas final and the top three from the Asia/Oceania final.

Unlike before when all these events would take place with all the drivers present in one location, the finals will now take place remotely in the same way the F1 Esports are having to do this year due to travel restrictions. If you’ve been following the Gran Turismo championships up until now, there are some names you’ll probably remember.

First up is the most notable name, Igor Fraga is back. The FIA Formula 3 driver was the inaugural FIA Gran Turismo Nations Cup champion and followed that up with winning the Manufacturers Series the following year, however his Nations Cup effort was thwarted in the semi finals. He wasn’t in attendance of the Sydney World Tour event as he was across the Tasman sea in New Zealand wrapping up the Toyota Racing Series title.

Along with Fraga, there are other Gran Turismo championship regulars. These include World Tour winners such as Takuma Miyazono, Giorgio Mangano, Nicolas Rubilar and Ryoto Kokubun, and also Sydney World Tour runner-up Cody Latkovski who may not have a World Tour event win to his name but did win Gold for Australia in last year’s inaugural FIA Motorsport Games Digital Cup competition which took place on Gran Turismo Sport.

Then you have recognisable names that are regularly competing. Including the likes of Jonathan Wong, Bernal Valverde, Daniel Solis, Baptiste Beauvois and Coque López. There’s even a former GT Academy winner amongst the ranks, Nick McMillen who went on to have a career in real racing for a few years.

One notable absence from the GT Finals is last year’s Nations Cup champion Mikail Hizal. I had the fortune of running into him and a few other Gran Turismo championship regulars in a lobby not long before the first World Tour event last year. I told him it was his turn to win it and he did just that, winning all of his races in the finals. However this year, he took a sabbatical to focus on his studies so he may be back for next year.

There are also some new faces to the competition, one of which is the first woman to be competing, that being Emily Jones who has made a name for herself in the sim racing sphere as of late. She competes in the officially sanctioned Australian Supercars Pro Eseries, finished third in the Asia/Oceania Gran Turismo regional online championships and competed in the Le Mans 24 Virtual as part of the all-woman lineup Richard Mille Racing Team alongside Katherine Legge, Tatiana Calderón and Sophia Flörsch.

Following the Nations Cup in the World Final will be the Manufacturer Series final. The organisers will draw the participants from the ranks of the players who competed in the Online Championships. Whoever were the top ranked drivers for each manufacturer within GT Sport’s online championships, they will be the ones to represent their chosen manufacturer in the world final.

It’s unclear how the Manufacturer Series races will work as they typically involve driver swaps when the players have all been in the same location. But unlike high end sims such as iRacing, rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa Competizione, GT Sport doesn’t feature a driver swap system within the game itself.

Perhaps they’ll follow what the Le Mans Esports Super Final did this year, which takes place on Forza Motorsport 7. Instead of doing driver swaps like they did in 2019, they instead made every team race one of their three drivers in each race and eliminated teams one-by-one so then two drivers of a particular team would do some races, up until all three were able to compete.

In any case, it’s bound to be interesting to see who will be crowned Nations Cup and Manufacturers Series champions of the FIA-certified Gran Turismo championships. To keep up with the action, be on the lookout on Gran Turismo’s social media channels to find out the dates but rest assured that the regional finals take place this month with the world final taking place in December.

You can watch all the action live on Gran Turismo’s YouTube channel, in which you’ll be blessed with the voices of lead commentator Tom Brooks and sim racing shed dweller Jimmy Broadbent. To wet your appetite, I’m going to attach a video of the Sydney World Tour final. To quote Jimmer, the cars may not be real, but the racing well and truly is!

The bigger problem with Max Verstappen’s comments


Image courtesy of Red Bull content pool.

Over the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend, Max Verstappen was on the receiving end of some criticism after labelling Lance Stroll a “retard” and a “mongol” in which the two came together at the very fast first corner in practice. He was dismissive when pressed about it, and has since had a letter penned to him by the Mongol Identity Organisation requesting he apologise for his actions.

Now we have heard drivers say things in the heat of the moment. Infact Lando Norris during the race also had a run-in with Stroll at turn one in which he called him a few regrettable names in the wake of their clash, but apologised for saying them after the race. Though in Lando’s case, the words he referred to Stroll as may have been rude but not belittling.

We’ve all called someone a dickhead or a particular word beginning with C when frustrated with their actions, however Verstappen’s comments and his attitude afterwards cause some concern.

Firstly, I believe I’m not well versed enough to talk about his “mongol” comment, so I’m not talking about it not because I don’t think it’s important but I believe it wouldn’t be a good idea to talk about it when not completely able to understand the complexities. It’s better to not talk about something when you’re ignorant about it, than to try to talk about it and just ending up looking like so arrogant as to not know what you are talking about and trying to anyway.

I will however talk a lot about ableism and my own personal experiences being on the receiving end of comments like “retard”.

Full disclosure, I am on the autistic spectrum. Going through all my years in school, I always required extra support which was somewhat demoralising anyway but as a result of needing that extra support, I was always a target to mean spirited students. Of course, my experience isn’t exclusive to me and everyone regardless of the hands they’ve been dealt in life will have dealt with bullying in one form or another.

But in my personal experience, being part of a unit for kids with ‘special needs’ left me an open target to comments such as spacker and retard. These insults are derived from a place of believing someone is not of high intellect, and being at school when you’re the only one who needs support in class is already very demoralising.

So to then see people mock you by slapping their wrist with their tongue out when you are trying your best to fit in, it doesn’t matter what you did as to them, all you are is just some retard. Because of needing extra support, you are seen as lesser than them and will never be equal.

This is why when people use the word retard to describe someone doing an idiotic action, it further pushes this notion that the blatant accidental wrongdoings are associated as being the actions of someone who is mentally impaired. Now I could have chalked it up to a heat of the moment thing which we again have all been guilty of, but Verstappen’s dismissive attitude about it was very disappointing.

Now I’m not about censorship, and over the years I have appreciated Verstappen’s character and not being restrained by the overly monitored and polished media-friendly world. But I do draw the line when it comes to words that can fall back on others, because it’s not like a driver will say “piece of s***” and a toilet opens up somewhere in the world and some feces are going to pop out to say “I take issue with this!”.

The bigger issue comes about when you see people on social media who treat it like a non-issue and believe the “SNOWFLAKES ARE AT IT AGAIN!”. This is something that I really do take issue with, basic empathy is treated like an attempt to take away free speech and infringe on rights. It is seemingly born out of this need to be as far from “politically correct” as possible, but most of the time when it concerns you, people can change their tune. Even when confronted with the truth, some people seem so unwilling to concede that they were insensitive.

A couple of years ago, I would often misuse the word ‘triggered’, in line with the meme in which people get annoyed or angry about something. Someone told me that the word was insensitive because it mocks people who have post traumatic stress disorder. When these people are triggered, it represses awful memories that could really mess them up and they have to live with that.

Now if I was anything like the people who are like “LOOK AT ALL THESE SNOWFLAKES WHO JUST WANT TO GET OFFENDED BY EVERYTHING”, I’d have dismissed this person and sent an obnoxious amount of laughing-crying emojis and called them oversensitive. But instead, I listened and have attempted to educate others on this, and now I’ve adopted the term ‘Rattled’ in place of triggered in the context of someone getting angry.

Though all these people on the internet who don’t want to be educated on this and continue to spout ignorant and insensitive stuff, it’s very discouraging and disappointing for people like Max Verstappen to feed into this negative loop. Max has fans who receive these hateful remarks, and by failing to recognise the influence he has, he’s further alienating the people who live this reality every day and only giving the hate-spouting “i BeLiEvE iN fReEdOm oF sPeEcH” nonsense brigade all the time more fuel to further their toxicity.

If Max Verstappen went a step further, if he had someone crash with him and he said over the radio in response to it “This guy is 100% autistic” then I’d never forgive him. I’d rip my Max Verstappen flag off my wall, which I don’t want to have to do because I do like Max but also because the flag is from my best friend Nadine who is from the Netherlands and I don’t want to have to get rid of something that she bought for me.

We aren’t trying to cancel anyone here, but these people who have this reach on people, they need to recognise that their words can have major influence. We all know the phrase about sticks and stones, about how words can never hurt us, I do disagree with this notion. Words have power, words can tell us when we aren’t valued at a base level, and that you are not important.

There are pitiful attempts to look like you’re playing both sides as to not alienate anyone, but sometimes you need to call a spade what it is, a spade. You may think you’re being all hard with a silent H, by not caring about human rights, mental health, believing this has just been a ‘political’ post, that I’m preaching, telling you what to think, that you don’t care about what others think or what value you have towards others, you are kidding yourself when you think this is a non-issue.

Who could be Haas 2021 drivers?

image courtesy of Haas F1 Team

In the lead up to this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, it was announced that both Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen would not be retained by the American outfit for 2021, which makes it Haas’ biggest shake-up since it first appeared on the F1 grid back in 2016. Grosjean has been with the team from the start, and Magnussen joined him for 2017. Aside from Mercedes with Hamilton and Bottas, Haas have been the only team with a consistent line-up for many years so this news is hugely telling as far as the future for the team.

There have been some indications as to who could end up at Haas, some more likely than others. So let’s run through some possible candidates.

Experienced sideliners

First up we have to immediately mention the likes of Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez, both drivers are very well known quantities of the F1 paddock that are in danger of missing out.

Hülkenberg lost his Renault seat to Esteban Ocon and failed to secure a full-time drive for 2020, however has performed incredibly in his appearances with Racing Point when both drivers fell ill. One of those being Pérez, who has been let go from the team in favour of Sebastian Vettel when it is rebranded as Aston Martin.

Both drivers are of really high quality and shouldn’t have to beg for drives. But even Pérez who brings a lot of money from his native Mexico is struggling to find a seat at all, and may even end up at Williams alongside Nicholas Latifi and kicking out the also very highly rated George Russell.

But even being a great and proven driver isn’t enough these days, there needs to be more. For example..

Ferrari juniors

At the last Grand Prix, Ferrari academy drivers Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott (who are both first and second in the FIA Formula 2 championship) were due to make FP1 appearances. Schumacher was due to drive with Alfa Romeo and Ilott was with Haas, however the foggy October sky around northern Germany put pay to that plan and instead they’ll be making their FP1 debut at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Despite being considered a Ferrari ‘B-Team’, Haas have never done what Alfa Romeo have done and run one of Ferrari’s academy drivers in one of their seats. They’ve had the likes of current Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi do FP1 runs for them, but with the plethora of young talent in Ferrari’s camp, this could very well change for next year.

Not only do you have Schumacher and Ilott, but also last year’s FIA F3 champion Robert Shwartzman who comes with strong backing, however he seems less likely and a second season in F2 wouldn’t do any harm.

With the financial strains put on many teams due to the pandemic, it would make sense for the team to take on a Ferrari junior in exchange for getting their Ferrari power units cheaper. However speaking of financial incentive, that leads me on to the name that is floating around like a stubborn rubber dinghy.

Another kid with a rich dad

No list of possible drivers for smaller F1 teams would be complete without at least one rich kid who has more money than talent. The one in question here is Nikita Mazepin, son of $7.1 billion net-worth Dmitry Mazepin, who won’t stop trying to buy his son an F1 team. His name has been mentioned in conversations for buying out the likes of Force India, Renault, Williams and now Haas.

Mazepin has had a pretty underwhelming career, although he is fighting for victories in his second season of F2 and finished runner-up to the late Anthoine Hubert in the 2018 GP3 season. He was also runner-up in the FIA World Karting Championship in 2014 to current McLaren F1 driver Lando Norris, so I must give him credit where it’s due.

However like current Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, it’s obvious that his father’s money would be more of a reason than his ability as to why Haas would hire him. In this day and age, it’s a necessary evil if it means Haas can keep afloat and there are certainly many drivers who have much less ability they could have picked.

With that being said though, Mazepin is up there with the likes of Dan Ticktum and Santino Ferrucci in terms of polarising and distasteful character. He once punched Callum Ilott and only got a one race ban for it after claiming the Brit held him up in practice at the Hungaroring for an F3 race. He’s also come under fire for threatening to out a current F1 driver as gay, which when you consider the possible implications due to F1’s reliance on money from very homophobic countries, just makes me despise this Russian.

One thing is for sure though should this happen, the Drive To Survive episodes that we will inevitably see with a bad tempered team boss and spoilt son of a Russian oligarch, they’ll be entertaining to watch.

So who could it be?

Immediately, Mazepin seems all but certain, as unfortunate as it is. The extra injection of cash could be imperative for Haas as this could very well serve as a rebuilding phase for the team. Puzzlingly though, the extra money from Sergio Pérez’s backers may not be accepted, which considering a combination of an inexperienced driver like Mazepin with a seasoned veteran and both bringing in money sounds very ideal.

At the moment, it’s all rather up in the air. Haas may end up going with a Ferrari junior on one side of the garage and Mazepin on the other, which could end up backfiring since both drivers are hugely inexperienced and we remember how Williams struggled in 2018 with the money coming from both Lance Stroll’s and Sergey Sirotkin’s backers but both being very inexperienced.

If I was a betting man, that’s who I’d go for right now, Mazepin and a Ferrari academy driver.

But let’s take a moment to acknowledge their current drivers. Romain Grosjean is an anomaly, having had ounces of pace but lacked that refinement to keep him from keeping it on the straight and narrow but over time instead of ironing out those rough edges, he’s lost that spark and arguably shouldn’t have been picked over Nico Hülkenberg for 2020.

As for Kevin Magnussen, from scoring a podium on his debut to becoming the F1 bad boy and driving way too aggressively on occasion, and like Grosjean did show plenty of promise. However that whittled out and now I would be very surprised if either of them managed to find a drive in F1 for next season.

What’s next for them? Well Grosjean has expressed interest in spearheading Peugeot’s Le Mans Hypercar program as well as flirting with the idea of both Formula E and DTM, whilst Magnussen could be linked with a move to IndyCar although I would hope if he does, his defense style is quickly dealt with on ovals..

The F3 conundrum and the fall of Formula Regional

Formula Three racing has existed in many guises throughout the years. Whether international or domestic, it is a proven means of finding F1 worthy talent. The championship we think of as Formula Three now started out in 2010 as GP3 and runs as a support series to F1, however it ran in opposition with the FIA F3 European Championship that mainly ran in support of DTM up until 2018 when they ‘merged’. What that really meant was the FIA jumped ship to GP3 and there were efforts to have their own standalone series called Formula European Masters but it failed to get off the ground.

I may be getting ahead of myself here, but there is a point, I promise. The F3 title in motorsport is a bit of a confusing cesspool of championships, and to explain it clearly I am attaching a video made by a guy who is one of the moderators on the r/F1FeederSeries sub-Reddit named Jacob Bosley.

As you can see, there’s plenty of pies you have to put your fingers in when trying to discuss Formula Three as a whole. However the major confusing part was only further muddled by the inception of the Formula Regional European Championship which began in 2019. A part-Italian part-European series ran by the Automobil Club D’Italia of which its first champion Frederik Vesti has since graduated to FIA Formula 3 and finished fourth.

The series was created out of necessity since it was quite rightfully believed that expecting a driver fresh out of a national championship with a 160 horsepower F4 car and putting them into a nearly 400 horsepower F3 car on F1 tracks would not be a good idea. The FIA motorsport single-seater commission designated a five pillar system dubbed the ‘Global Pathway’ that starts out in F4 at a national level; following that is a ‘Regional F3’ championship that are based in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Then comes FIA F3 and FIA F2 before getting to Formula One.

So Formula Regional Europe is part of that second step in the system, however it is a flawed one.

When the concept first began to be discussed for licensing, the bid was between the ACI and also Renault Sport, who were looking to transition their Formula Renault EuroCup series into a full blown F3 championship. However when the single-seater commission favoured the ACI bid, Renault Sport decided to adopt the same Tatuus chassis that the Formula Regional series use.

Formula Renault has proven over the last two years to be a way more attractive option to budding F1 drivers due to visiting more F1-relevant circuits such as Silverstone, Spa and Monaco. By contrast, Formula Regional was split between Italian circuits (don’t get me wrong though, Italy has some of the best circuits in the world, such as Monza, Imola, Mugello, Misano and Vallelunga) but did branch out to a couple of circuits on the F1 calendar like Paul Ricard, Red Bull Ring, Hungaroring and Barcelona.

In an effort to bolster up the grid numbers and compel more drivers to compete, the FIA declared that 25 Super License points would be handed to the eventual champion . F1 hopefuls need 40 to be able to compete so getting a huge boost of 25 would be surely very enticing for these young drivers. In order to further encouurage drivers into Formula Regional from Formula Renault, the FIA capped the maximum Super License points for the champion of Formula Renault to 18, but it didn’t work.

Over the first two seasons, grid numbers for Formula Regional Europe have been struggling to fit the capacity that the FIA requires it would need to meet the full Super License points payout. In the meantime, Formula Renault has only gone from strength to strength, and the FIA seemed to not want to admit it didn’t have its priorities in order when they picked ACI’s bid.

Of course there are probably a lot of factors involved in that decision; I can’t claim to know exactly what was going through their heads but from my perspective, they were definitely attempting to plug a non-existent hole in the market. It seems now however, that the FIA and Single-Seater Commission have seen sense as it has been reported that the higher-ups are meeting with the organisers of both championships in order to discuss a merging of the two series.

This is something that shouldn’t have needed to happen – the Formula Renault EuroCup already had a solid foundation to fill this slot and it did it so much better than Formula Regional, so I’m glad it’s happening. I know the single-seater ladder will be much better off because of it, with hopeful Europe-based drivers already having a lot of choice at this level with the likes of EuroFormula Open, BRDC British F3 and for the women hoping to climb up the junior formulae ladder, there’s the W Series.

This Formula Regional Europe concept didn’t need to happen but it did and has just unnecessarily overcomplicated the oversaturated market that is European F3 championships. I for one will be happy to see the back of it, even if a few of my favourite drivers have competed in it.

FDA’s Enzo Fittipaldi raced in Formula Regional Europe in 2019, finishing as runner-up in the championship – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Whilst I’m here, can we please drop the Formula Regional tag? It is such a dreadful name. I know the championships are called that in order to distinguish them from the Grand Prix-supporting FIA Formula 3. It could just be a case of actually calling the entry level formulae Formula 5 and then allowing this level to be called Formula 4, but we are too far forward with the existence of this category to start calling it that.

We can’t call it Formula 3.5 either because of the series Renault Sport managed between 2005 and 2015 which had the 3.5 moniker to distinguish the cubic capacity of the engine, but was more an alternative to GP2 (now FIA Formula 2). The series ran an extra two years without Renault Sport’s support before folding at the end of 2017, then dubbed Formula V8 3.5.

I’m obviously not paid to name these championships but Formula Regional does sound like a name that was conjured up at quarter to pub. In any case, I hope they see sense and call it by its apt name: the F3 European Championship. It would be much like the F3 Asian Championship, and rename the ‘Formula Regional’ championships in the Americas and Japan to F3 Americas Championship and F3 Japanese Championship.

This move to finally get rid of unnecessary bumps in the road to F1 can only be a good thing. If a deal is reached, expect an announcement alongside the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on the weekend of November 1st when Formula Renault EuroCup and the ACI’s Italian F4 are expected to run in support of the F1 race.

A case for: Sim Racing Esports World Championship

Image courtesy of Virtual Competition Organisation

During the beginning portion of this year, we have been treated to some incredible racing in the virtual world. It provided an unprecedented opportunity to showcase the high level of ability from a lot of drivers who do compete in sim racing, as well as the high quality of racing you can witness at the fraction of the cost of the real thing.

We had countless examples of high profile races ranging from sanctioned events by existing series including the likes of Formula 1, MotoGP, Formula E and IndyCar, to completely new originals such as the very popular All-Star Series by The Race.

However Esports racing events are not an entirely new creation, as we have had plenty of championships that existed before this sim racing boom. Such examples include F1 Esports, the FIA-certified Gran Turismo Championships, and iRacing host many sanctioned sim racing series such as the Porsche Esports SuperCup and the eNASCAR iRacing Series. Then we also have the likes of Formula Sim Racing, the Grand Prix Virtual World Championship, league racing championships such as Apex Online Racing and Online Racing League, you get the idea.

So it’s not as if virtual racing fans are starved of action, if anything we are spoilt for choice! But with the quantity of races and championships that there is on offer, there’s a danger perhaps of a lack of prestige with any one particular championship. Do bear with me on this.

When I started to become interested in video game racing, I like many of you were blown away by the accessibility and thus seeing the amount of drivers who were taking to it in order to make advances in their racing career. Subsequently a lot of teams have popped up to compete and signed a lot of drivers to compete in various championships for them, and it just solidified the brilliance of the Esports racing.

So what is it that really sets apart virtual racing from real racing?

It of course goes without saying that real racing has the physical element which virtual racing could never really have. However because in the virtual world, cars and tracks can be picked from the touch of button, the advantage of that is not having to pay huge amounts of money to ship cars onto a cargo plane to a new track. Therefore whilst the physical factor isn’t a huge thing in Esports, there can be a mental factor.

In the week leading up to last weekend’s 24 hours of Le Mans, the Le Mans Esports Series had their Super Final which was stretched across a few days. In that, teams and drivers race multiple different eras of Le Mans-style cars on a variety of circuits, which is brilliant of course but I think it was their first season last year which really made me realise what was so brilliant about the format.

Of course this year, everything is being done remotely and thus there are some limitations. But in 2019 when the Le Mans Esports Series had its first Super Final and all the drivers were actually present at the Le Mans circuit for the event, they had about nine races varying from two to three hours long, in a variety of cars on a multitude of circuits, and it all took place within a 24 hour period.

They could just as well have had one race on the Circuit de la Sarthe and driven for 24 hours like the real thing but they didn’t. They took advantage of the fact that they could go to all these circuits and compete in all these vastly different cars, and really test the mental strength of these drivers, showing who can quickly adapt and prove their versatility in a short space of time.

What I’m saying is, whilst you could have a sim racing championship that does one circuit at a time with one type of car throughout the season and it would be perfectly legitimate, there are advantages presented by being able to quickly move to another type of car and track combination.  That’s why I want to present an example that demonstrated this concept brilliantly.

On the weekend of July 26th, I watched the Cup of Nations, an event that took place on iRacing and hosted by the Virtual Competition Organisation in collaboration with RaceSpotTV and Williams Esports. You can guess by the name that it was a competition held between nations, and you’d be correct in assuming that.

It was won in the end by Team Germany who had the driver with the highest iRacing driver rating in the world Maximilian Benecke, as one of their participants. However as appealing the concept of pitting nations against each other is (demonstrated by the likes of the FIA Motorsport Games and A1GP), it wasn’t that which caught my attention.

No, it was the fact that the car and track combinations were so heavily varied. You had the likes of Aussie Supercars, GT cars, Rallycross cars, single seaters and the many different types of race tracks such as ovals, dirt tracks and road courses. The people taking part only knew of the car and track combinations very little time in advance, so it eliminated the element of people getting more practice or even enough of it with a particular car and track combo.

Every driver that took part had to prove their worth in so many heavily contrasting environments. When I said earlier that the virtual racing world is currently lacking that one prestigious championship in which all the major aspiring and established sim racing drivers and the many Esports teams would want to compete in and win, I think this would be it.

I firmly believe that the VCO have showcased a diamond in a huge box already full of very valuable jewels. With some other elements borrowed from many other high profile Esports championships and if refined to iron out some rough edges, this concept would be – and I don’t mince my words here – the quintessential sim racing championship.

Picture if you will, the many big names from the real and virtual world both in regards to drivers and teams, looking to win the biggest prize in Esports racing, in the most prestigious championship for sim racers all over the world.

Open to anyone all over the world, teams entering with pre-selected drivers in a Pro driver category or players who qualify through iRacing and enter into an Am category. Either competing remotely in eight events across the year to match up to a total at the end, or entering into regional championships so no one region is left having to drive at 3am all the time. I would leave that up to the experts to decide which format works best.

Either way, it would end at the SimRacing Expo which takes place at the Nürburgring every year to crown the champions.

As far as a name goes, I’m divided between a few. There are the likes of, Sim Racing World Championship, Virtual Racing World Championship, eRacing/E-Racing World Championship.

In any case, I firmly believe that this championship would be incredible. It would not be a long shot to say that whoever would win this would be the world’s best sim racing driver or team, and we the viewers would also be major winners as we can see the peak of ability in all of sim racing.